By David T. Applegate, Research and Policy Assistant, National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity
Congress’ summer recess is just around the corner. That means that throughout August, United States Senators and Representatives will be traveling throughout their home states and districts talking with their constituents. Face-to-face meetings with Members of Congress are crucial to advancing policies that support the needs of people in their districts experiencing chronic unemployment and poverty. Meeting with an elected official at his or her local office or inviting them to visit your program site is a great way to develop an ongoing relationship with your Member of Congress. Here, we give some tips for conducting meetings and site visits with elected officials and show how program providers can take advantage of these opportunities to advocate on behalf of their participants.
How America Can Do More to Help Black Men Returning Home from Prison Find Jobs: Reflections on RecycleForce’s Trip to Capitol Hill
By Caitlin C. Schnur, Workforce Research and Policy Fellow
“In the summer of 2012, I had just been released from federal prison. I was staying in a halfway house and job hunting, but I really couldn’t come up with any work…It’s so hard to come home from prison and it shouldn’t be…A couple of men at the halfway house stumbled across RecycleForce and told me about it…RecycleForce took a chance with me and I pretty much try to take advantage of every opportunity they’ve given me.” — Robert Perry, RecycleForce
As March came to a close, RecycleForce staff, including former program participant Robert Perry, met up with the National Transitional Jobs Network (NTJN) team in Washington, D.C. We were there to support the B.MORE Initiative’s efforts to champion policies that open doors to employment and economic advancement for low-income black men. Located in Indianapolis, Indiana, RecycleForce provides people returning home from incarceration with transitional jobs (TJ) in its revenue-generating recycling business and provides comprehensive supportive services so that returning citizens can overcome barriers to employment and successfully reenter their communities.
Robert Perry, a former RecycleForce program participant and now the organization’s Shipping and Receiving Coordinator, was integral in showing Indiana’s Congressional delegates why it’s important that they put their support behind employment programs and policies like banning the box that help low-income black men succeed in work.
In meetings with legislators in D.C., Robert was courageous enough to share the struggles he faced finding a job when he returned home from incarceration and how RecycleForce helped him become employed and advance in the workplace. In this interview, Robert opens up again to share RecycleForce’s impact on his life, reflect on his time in D.C., and make the case for why “banning the box” can help ensure that everyone who wants to work can find a job.
Congress may have averted the “fiscal cliff”, but now the “fiscal rift” in Washington over how to achieve further deficit reduction could mean far more harmful consequences for low-income individuals and those who are chronically unemployed.